Since Bobby Sessions made his debut in 2015, the Dallas MC has delivered two thought-provoking albums that contained uplifting messages of inspiration and positivity. The two albums, LOA (Law of Attraction) and grateful, were widely applauded for their sharp lyrics and musically-inclined direction. In those days, Sessions pushed the idea that the world is still a good place despite some people believing otherwise.
Fast forward to 2018 and Bobby is flipping the switch on the positivity and inspiration. “The times are really bad right now and shit is f—ed up,” Sessions tells Billboard. “I feel like the music right now needs to reflect the times. I’m angry right now and that’s the music that I’m making.”
In 2012, Session’s cousin James Germon Harper, while unarmed, was gunned down by Dallas law enforcement. The shooting nearly caused a riot in the Dallas area and it was one of several fatal police shootings of unarmed African-American men in Dallas at the time.
Since his cousin’s death, Sessions has spoke on the unarmed killings and injustices of African-Americans. But after signing a deal with Def Jam Records in April, Sessions has a bigger platform where he’s now speaking with a feeling of anger that all African-Americans can relate to. With no real answer to the constant police shootings and discrimination they as a race face, Sessions is channeling all of that energy into his major-label debut, RVLTN: The Divided States Of AmeriKKKa.
The album is a visceral, unapologetic statement that Sessions says is “meant to grab you and make you feel uncomfortable.” The release is led by the two singles “Like Me” and “Pick a Side” with visual treatments that tease the controversial tone of the album. Sessions is not afraid of the reactions that may come from those who feel the content is too much. It’s an audacious attempt but in a genre that glorifies the money and clout, the message that Sessions is spreading is a much needed statement.
With the album dropping Friday (July 20), Billboard sat down with the Dallas lyricist at Hunt & Fish Club in New York City to talk about the new album, channeling his anger into his music, Kanye and ye, why he’s at an advantage and disadvantage with his peers, his experience touring with PRhyme, and why he calls himself a legend.
In previous interviews you’ve called yourself a legend. Why give yourself such a bold claim this early in your career?
Calling myself a legend is my affirmation. I’m speaking into existence every chance that I get. I’m the kind of person that believes in the Law of Attraction quite a bit. What you think is what you become. I visualize being a legend and having a legendary impact on music and culture in general, and that’s the reality that I live in right now.
We normally hear up-and-coming rappers wanting to be legends as opposed to already being one. You’re pretty confident in yourself.
When we look at the greatest artists of the genre’s history, I want to make sure that my name is mentioned. I also want to make sure that since I’ve been blessed with this platform, I want to make sure that I’m speaking about issues that are way bigger than myself and that’s my main goal. I try to fit my individual goal of like the technical mastery of rap within speaking about something that’s bigger than myself — particularly issues involving African-American people.
You represent the city of Dallas to the fullest. What has the city given you to help with your music career?
Dallas has an amazing culture. It’s one of the best music scenes in the country right now. It’s a hidden gem and not a lot of people know about it. There’s a host of talented musicians out there and a bunch of talented rappers, producers, and creatives that kind of push each other to be as great as we possibly can be. I’m proud to be from there.
You mentioned that you want to put Dallas on the map. How does it feel being apart of this wave of budding talent coming from the area like Asian Doll and Yella Beezy?
It means everything. We’re getting a chance to redefine what it means to be a Dallas artist. Typically, we’ve only been known on a national level for just dance or club music, which is good. It’s necessary because it’s been apart of our culture for so long. But to be a lyricist, get some mainstream attention, and have it expand nationally and globally, it means the world to me. I want to push it as far as I can.
Do you consider yourself a political or conscious rapper?
That’s a great question. I am a conscious rapper that can be political. I have a lot of music that is political but that’s not all the topics I cover in my music. But I wouldn’t just say I’m a political rapper, because the main meat and potatoes of my message has always been about the law of attraction and manifestations. However, I don’t want to just focus on that and dismiss my brother that’s getting shot in the street. That’s not cool.
How is RVLTN: The Divided States Of AmeriKKKa different than Law of Attraction and grateful?
It’s a lot more aggressive. A lot more chaotic and disruptive sonically. I spoke about these issues on both my previous two works. But I reached a point now where I feel like with my previous work the production was a lot more easier to digest. Sometimes, it’s easy to dismiss the words because the vibe was so positive and I think to really drill my message, sonically, it needed to reflect my aggression.
I imagine you had to go to a certain place to create it. Can you speak on that process and how you it affected you?
You have to go into a very dark state in order to write the records and execute them to the point that somebody really feels it on a deep level. I was at a point where I was the happiest I ever been because I’m signed to Def Jam. But at the same time, it was difficult putting myself in that space to make those records because they’re so dark. You have to go there and commit. It was taxing, but felt like something I had to do. If I don’t do it now, I’ll regret it.
How did you channel your cousin’s death into this album and not in a destructive way?
That’s a good question. I feel like I was fortunate to be blessed with an ability to make music. That’s my therapy. Now for someone that doesn’t have that outlet, I don’t know exactly what that therapy should be. I feel like for me being able to make music and being able to study our history pre-slavery where I learned how great people of color are, it made me feel very empowered.
We’ve been a very powerful population the whole time and they just tried — and succeeded at times — to hide that history from us. Once I really got to understand the history, that gave me a sense of pride of what I came from. That gives me the confidence to make the music that’ll get more of us to understand we can be free.
Is there any feeling that you’ll turn some people off with the graphic nature of the album?
Yes, and I’m cool with that. Like this isn’t politically correct. I’m not trying to be a politician or try to say everything perfect and walk on eggshells. People are dying and it’s not a message that should be sugar coated. I feel like to spark the change that’s necessary it’s important to tell the truth as raw and uncut as possible. That’s what I’m focused on doing.
The videos for “Like Me” and “Pick a Side” are very powerful. Will your other videos follow the same tone?
They’re going to be bold and polarizing. I’m going to continue to push the envelope even further. I feel that’s what my art is. My art is meant to get people to think and spark conversations. It’s meant to start dialogue and hopefully get all of us on the same page on what we need to do to fix the problems. My goal with this is that RVLTN: Divided States of AmeriKKKa is chapter one to a series of projects I’m going to release called RVTLN. Chapter one is identifying what the problem is and all the visuals will reflect that. As we get into more chapters I’ll reveal more and more things down the line.
You have a feature from Killer Mike on the track “Black Neighborhood.” What was it like working with him on that record?
It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen because it was right after SXSW. We got back to Dallas and Killer Mike came to studio. There were two floors so he went upstairs did an interview, came down, smoked a joint, rapped his verse from the top of his head, and went to go perform at the American Airlines Arena right after that. I was just like “Yeah, you’re a professional.” He delivered a very powerful verse and I’m glad he’s on the project.
With everything you’re talking about on this album and Kanye being one of your idols how did it feel to hear those comments he made on TMZ and the album?
It felt conflicting. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for Kanye West. He’s always expressed himself regardless of what people thought but the TMZ comments were disappointing. It’s hard seeing your idols like him and Ray Lewis, who I also looked up to, have total opposite views than your own. I 1000 percent disagree with everything Kanye said and with that being said the lesson I took from it is that I need to prove that I can have $100 million dollars and still be in touch and not lose it. But I still appreciate the music.
How did you feel about the ye album?
I thought it was an improvement from The Life of Pablo. Especially finding out he remade the album after the TMZ incident. I thought it was an impressive body of work for that short amount of time. As an artist when you’re trying to create music, it’s not always about making a great song. It’s also about the attempt. I don’t like every song Kanye has ever made but it was always clear that there was an attempt to make the greatest thing possible.
What was it like being on tour with PRhyme?
One, the kind of fan that wants to see them is expecting hip-hop and I’m introducing a fresh perspective of hip-hop. It’s cool to see how people respond to what they do. It’s crazy. It’s the first time I’ve been to these places like Philly and Boston. To finally go and see a whole crowd of people and they’re expecting to hear metaphors, similes, punchlines, and stories it’s been a great response and a huge honor to see those two work. I’ve been learning a lot from watching them.
What have you learned from them?
How important longevity is. We’ve known about Royce and Preemo forever and people are still bugging out when they see them. I really admire the work ethic and they’re showing me if I keep my head on straight then I can be doing this for a very long time.
There has been a lot of buzz surrounding your on-stage performances. With the messages you’re speaking how important is it to have have a strong stage presence?
That’s the area that I’m best at. I’ve been performing my whole life. I’ve been doing performances on stage for 20 years plus. I feel like in this whole streaming era there’s nothing that will ever beat going and seeing an artist face to face and seeing them showcase their work in person. Understanding that I always had the mentality to make sure whoever sees me if this was their first or last time I want to make sure that they never forget what they saw.
There’s a record on Law of Attraction called “Black America” and on the third verse I’ll perform the a capella of that live. I’ll get people to put their hands up and I’ll rap about the Eric Garner situation where I act out getting choked out. It’s just certain things a live show can do that just listening to a record will never do. It’s a different experience.
What is the overall goal with this album?
I want to make sure that I make a great impact. I want it to be an iconic debut. When you think of Def Jam, you think of Public Enemy and those kinds of acts where they had music of the times. It would’ve been easy to have this platform and talk my shit but that’s a selfish thing to do. So I wanted to talk about something that’s important to me and right now. It’s been almost 500 years and we’re still not free. The fact that we’re making music like that’s not the case is a bit troubling. Instead of complaining about the lack of artists doing that I wanted to put myself out there and do it myself.